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    aught music : 2003 : "bad news" and "don't be scared" by a.r.e. weapons

    Here's my contribution to the roundtable on A.R.E. Weapons' self-titled debut album, currently being discussed at Aught Music.

    In the story I heard, A.R.E. Weapons were signed to Rough Trade on the menacing energy of two early songs: "Black Mercedes" and "Street Gang." These songs are built around smoggy, murky electronics, and they feature vocals that mumble transgressive stuff about drugs and violence. Transgression sells, and it's easy to imagine the record company happily imagining that they were sitting on the next Suicide.

    "Black Mercedes" and "Street Gang" are buried way at the end of the resultant full-length, however, and every other song on the album is in a completely different vein: specifically, a cheesy fist-pumping inspirational vein. It's pretty easy to imagine most of these songs as the soundtrack for a training montage in a 1980s sports film: the track "Bad News," in fact, is an explicit homage to the Bad News Bears.

    The album never really loses its transgressive edge, though, so it almost ends up seeming like it's engaged in the project of prying the emotional pleasures of "positive" anthemic music away from jocks and giving it to the burnouts, druggies, and losers. Consequently, you end up with bonkers stuff like "Don't Be Scared," which contains verses like the following:

    People think you're a sleaze

    Cause you're down on your knees

    Suckin dick, every night

    Aw, that's alright

    People think you're retarded

    Maybe even cold-hearted

    Cause you only care about yourself

    You don't care bout no one else

    People think you're a spazz

    Just because you're a spazz

    So what?

    Spazz on, spazz

    People think you're wrong, kid

    Take it from me

    You're doin all right

    You're doin all right

    Er... OK... but... are you just pulling my leg here? Is this some kind of album-length experiment in irony? Anyone who's ever felt like a loser can surely enjoy the endorphin rush "Don't Be Scared" provides, but is it really all right to only care about yourself?

    I've been listening to this album steadily since 2003, and still can't quite puzzle out exactly what the band is up to. I intend this as nothing other than the highest praise.

    Listen: A.R.E. Weapons >> "Bad News" | "Don't Be Scared"

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    Saturday, August 08, 2009
    10:23 PM


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